Best Cheap Eats in Las Vegas
The Dirt Cheap, Moderately Priced, & The Best Overall Value in Las Vegas
Vegas loves to tout its growing cadre of world-renowned chefs and high class restaurants, but let's face it, sometimes you're in the mood for something a little more simple (translation: cheap). Forty-five dollar steaks have their place, but so do five dollar burgers, especially in our current economic climate. Then again, some of the lower end deals in Vegas don't always deliver the highest of standards. The $5.99 prime rib looks good on the billboard but it might not always look quite so good on the plate. So, if you're trying downshift on your Las Vegas food budget without totally betraying your taste buds and/or digestive system, here's some good options among the fast and cheap, the moderately priced, and our selections for the best overall values in town.
The Fast and Cheap
In the ongoing debate over the best "fast food" burger, In-N-Out Burger (4888 Dean Martin Dr., just off the strip behind New York/New York) has hordes of loyal believers on the west coast. Located across California, Arizona, Texas, Utah and, yes, Nevada, In-N-Out features some of the freshest ingredients you'll find at any "fast-food" burger joint. Go for the "double-double"- two burger patties and two slices of cheese, with lettuce, tomato, sauce and some onions if you like ($3.05) or a burger-fries-drink combo ($4.45).
Fatburger (3763 S. Las Vegas Blvd. S., on the strip near MGM Grand) is just that- a thicker, fatter, jucier burger than you'll find at In-N-Out. That's not to say it's better, just different. Fatburger also features a much greater variety of options than In-N-Out, including different sizes of burgers for all appetites, different types of french fries (fat and skinny), onion rings, hot dogs, chicken sandwiches, turkey burgers, bacon and egg sandwiches and shakes too. Best of all, Fatburger features a char-grill option, giving you the choice between a flame-broiled burger or a traditionally fried one. Lighter appetites can go for the Baby Fat ($3.80), others can opt for a regular Fatburger ($5.75) or the Big Fat Deal (burger, fries and drink for $9.50).
If In-N-Out and Fatburger are the old veterans of the upscale fast-food burger chain category, Five Guys Burgers and Fries (7580 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Ste. 120, just off the strip) is the new kid on the block, and it is coming fast. This burger is winning converts rapidly, and rightfully so. It's quick, it's good, and it is substantial. It feels like a real meal. Various sizes here as well, ranging from the little hamburger ($3.79) to the regular burger ($5.39) or the bacon cheeseburger ($6.89).
Vegas has plenty of quality options in the sandwich category as well. Jimmy Johns Gourmet Sandwiches (4800 S. Maryland, just off strip near UNLV) makes a mean gourmet sandwich, they make it quick and they make it good. High quality ingredients, particularly the bread, and a reputation for good service and a fun atmosphere make this a great choice. Popular selections include the Italian combo ($6.22) and the Beach Club, with turkey, provolone, avocado, sliced cucumber, sprouts, lettuce and tomato ($6.22).
Just as In-N-Out is rivaled by Fatburger, Jimmy Johns has a strong rival of its own in Jersey Mike's Subs (3900 Paradise Rd). Whereas Jimmy Johns makes a slightly smaller gourmet sandwich, Jersey Mike's offers more of an old school, east coast-style sub. They slice the cold cuts right there in front of you, and they also offer excellent hot subs as well. We're big fans of the American Classic, featuring ham and provolone, and you gotta get it "Mike's Way," which includes your choice of onions, lettuce, tomato, vinegar, oil and spices. Like all the Jersey Mike's subs, this one comes in three sizes: mini ($5.45); regular ($7.45); and giant ($10.95).
But wait, Vegas has another sandwich option as well, and it's a damn good one. Locals swear by the Earl of Sandwich (Planet Hollywood). We like the Original 1762, named after the year the sandwich was invented, featuring roast beef, sharp cheddar and creamy horseradish sauce ($6.48). Others swear by the Full Montagu, with roast beef, turkey, swiss, cheddar, lettuce, tomato and mustard sauce ($6.48). These are some good sandwiches at very reasonable prices, and they're open 24/7.
There's plenty in Vegas for the hot dog lovers as well. Stop by Pink's (Planet Hollywood) for a classic dog ($4.75) or get a little wild with the chili cheese dog ($6.50). Another great option is Nathan's Famous Hot Dogs (New York/New York; Venetian). This place has come a long way since Nathan Handwerker opened his first hot dog cart at Coney Island in 1916. If you appreciate the snap of a classic New York dog, you won't be able to have just one. Just ask Joey Chestnut, five time winner of the annual 4th of July Nathan's Hot Dog eating contest, and holder of the world record of 68 hot dogs (and buns) consumed in a ten minute period. Make Joey proud and go for the combo deal of two dogs and crinkle cut fries ($9.99).
And speaking of New York institutions, Grimaldi's Pizzeria (9595 S. Eastern Ave.) has made its way to sin city as well. Actually there are a few Grimaldi's locations across the city, including the Fashion Show Mall and the Shoppes at the Palazzo. Pick up a 12 inch personal pizza ($9.00) if you're flying solo or go for the larger 16 inch ($14.00) or 18 inch ($16.00) pies if you're rolling with a crew.
Another great spot that's worth a mention is the Superbook Deli at the Las Vegas Hotel (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton). Located in the LVH sports book, the Superbook Deli features an outstanding selection of quality food. Sandwiches like the Italian Hoagie ($5.95 six-inch/$8.95 foot long) are made with Dietz and Watson premium deli meats. There's also a Philly Cheese Steak ($5.95/$8.95), a classic burger ($4.50), a New York hot dog ($3.25) and a Chicago-style footlong dog ($5.95). And if you're looking for something a little more healthy, there's a salad selection as well, including an excellent Chicken Caesar ($8.95).
The Moderately Priced
Wichcraft (MGM Grand) is an upscale sandwich shoppe (you can tell it's fancy because they spell "shoppe" with an extra "pe" at the end) featuring reasonably priced creations by all-star chef Tom Colicchio. Try one of the breakfast selections like the fried egg sandwich with blue cheese, bacon and frisee (fancy lettuce) on ciabatta ($8.50). There's also warm sandwiches, such as an excellent roasted pork loin sandwich with red cabbage, jalapenos and mustard ($9.50), and cold sandwiches too, such as the Sicilian tuna with fennel, black olives and lemon confit (lemon flavor) on a baguette ($9.50). Better yet, go for the combo deal with any sandwich and chips, fruit and drink for $15.00.
And then there's Hash House-a-Go-Go (Imperial Palace, Plaza Hotel and Casino, The M Hotel), featuring one of the most unique menus in town, offering massive portions of southern-styled creations such as the fried chicken and bacon waffle tower ($18.00), meatloaf and cream sauce gravy ($17.00) and Indiana crispy hand hammered pork tenderloin ($27). The real attraction, however, are breakfast dishes such as the tractor driver combo, consisting of two eggs, bacon, sausage or potatoes and one flapjack, waffle or piece of French toast ($13.95). Things can get a tad pricey when it comes to dinner entrees, but breakfast and lunch are reasonable- and bring your appetite, because, just to reiterate, the portions are huge.
Shifting to the upscale burger category, two of the leading spots on the strip are BLT Burger at the Mirage and Burger Bar at Mandalay Bay. Both feature hip scenes, cocktails, and gourmet burgers that go a step beyond the fast food variety. BLT Burger features a 7 oz. grilled certified Angus beef burger ($12.00) as well as some interesting dessert offerings like deep fried oreos ($6.00) and milk shakes ($6.00). Even better, BLT Burger specializes in spiked shakes like the Malibu Barbie, consisting of Malibu rum, pineapple juice, coconut milk and vanilla ice cream ($12.00) and a Jack Daniels root beer float ($12.00). Burger Bar has an Angus burger of their own ($9.50) and they also feature an American Kobe beef burger ($16.50) and a buffalo burger ($16.50). In addition there's a fine selection of hand-crafted microbrews.
And, speaking of upscale, The Pizza Place at the Wynn serves up a pretty good New York-style pie in the type of opulent setting that only the Wynn can deliver. Everyone knows about the fine dining that Steve Wynn's resort offers, but he balances that out with a place like this, a classy pizza joint located amidst flowing waterfalls and all-around gorgeous scenery. You might get better pizza in New York, but you'll never get to eat it in surroundings like this. Slices go for $5.25 while the small 12 inch pizza starts at $13.50 and the large 22 inch starts at $31.50.
The Wynn features another excellent option with Zoozacrackers Deli. This is not a sprawling old school deli, but it offers a nice selection of quality fare at reasonable prices. The location adjacent to the sports book is ideal for sports fans. If you're the type who likes to hang out all day betting games and throwing back some beers, this is the place to get some good food in your stomach without putting a crimp into your gambling and drinking fund. And if your games are coming down to the wire, you won't miss a beat on the flatscreens located all over the dining room. Better yet, Zoozacrackers will deliver right to your spot in the sports book. We like the stuffed turkey sandwich, consisting of turkey, stuffing and cranberry relish, for $11.95. There's also the Zooza Burger, featuring a burger with pastrami, swiss, cole slaw, pickles and Italian dressing for $14.95. And they serve a mean bowl of chicken noodle soup ($5.95).
But if you really like deli food, there's no shortage of other options as well. In fact, venerable Jewish delis are popping up all over the strip these days. Among the more prominent installations are the Carnegie Deli at the Mirage, Backstage Deli at the Luxor and Towers at the Venetian. Canter's at Treasure Island features a massive pastrami sandwich for $15.00 including fries and drink.
The best of the bunch, however, in terms of both quality and price, is Greenberg's at New York/New York. Loyalists rave about the beef and cheddar melt with a side of potato salad ($10.25). There's also a classic turkey club ($9.75) and a New York skyhigh sandwich featuring corned beef, pastrami, turkey, cole slaw and thousand island dressing ($9.75).
On the other hand, if you're looking for a local institution, as opposed to one of these interlopers from New York or Los Angeles, you might wanna head straight for The Peppermill Restaurant and Fireside Lounge (2985 S. Las Vegas Blvd., on the strip near the Riviera). The highlight of the menu is the great breakfast fare, (bacon, eggs, hash browns and toast for $11.50) but there's also a diverse selection of old-fashioned diner food for lunch and dinner as well (classic reuben and hot pastrami sandwiches for $11.95). The real draws, however, are the ambiance, complete with neon lights and mirrored ceilings, as well as the vibe and the crowd. Open 24 hours, there's always something interesting going on at the Peppermill, particularly around the circular fire pit located in the main dining area. And if you're looking to embrace the late night weirdness of sin city, you really can't do much better than a stop at the Peppermill for one more cocktail and some pancakes and eggs anywhere between 3 AM and sunrise.
And Now...(Drumroll Please)...Our Top Three Best Overall Values in Las Vegas
The Lobby Bar and Café at Encore is pure genius. First of all, it's located adjacent to the front desk, right in front of the guest elevators. This is convenient for a number of reasons. Let's say you're hungover in the morning and you're not interested in spending $84 on room service breakfast. Here's what you do: roll out of bed, float down to the Lobby Bar and Café and get yourself an egg, bacon and cheese croissant for $9. Sounds like a lot for a breakfast sandwich, but when you bite into it you'll understand. This might just be the best breakfast sandwich you've ever had. Pair it up with a bloody mary for a true breakfast of champions. There's also outstanding coffee and a fine selection of pastries by famed master chef Frederic Robert. And while the breakfast sandwich (served only until noon) is the main attraction, this place serves excellent food at all hours of the day and night, including some pretty good fish tacos for $13.00.
The barbecue menu at the Ellis Island Brewery is the real deal. Not to be confused with the regular restaurant at Ellis Island, the Brewery is only open from 4 pm to 10 pm each day. People tend to line up early waiting to get in for a shot at the outstanding baby back ribs, with special prices for Ellis Island Player's Card holders ($12.99 for a full rack/$8.99 for half a rack). Don't sweat the card holder thing- it's free to sign up. There's also a great chicken/rib combo priced at $10.99 for card holders ($13.99 for non-card holders). And these dishes come with excellent sides like beans, bread and corn on the cob. If you're a barbecue fanatic this is definitely the place for you.
Having cited a couple of great spots on strip, it's time to consider the best off-strip dining value in the city, which happens to be Paymon's Mediterranean Café and Hookah Lounge (4147 S. Maryland Parkway, about 5-7 minutes from the strip). The diverse menu at Paymon's offers a range of well-done Greek, Italian, Persian, Middle Eastern, Indian and Vegetarian dishes at reasonable prices. Some claim that the Athens fries ($2.95 for a side/$4.50 for a full serving) with special seasonings and dipping sauce, are among the best french fries they've ever had. There's also an array of entrée dishes in the $12.95 range and- get this- all you can eat pasta for $9.95 at all times. Take your pick of a wide variety of pastas and sauces ranging from marinara and alfredo to Bolognese and pesto. And Wednesday nights between 5 pm and 9 pm is customer appreciation night, with all bills receiving a 25% discount. Now that's some serious Las Vegas dining value.